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The breaking point - All Woman - Jamaica Observer
All Woman

The breaking point

IN the latest recorded statistical report on divorces from the chief justice, the number of petitions for dissolution of marriage which were filed in the Easter Term of 2021 at the Kingston and Western Regional Supreme Court Registries combined, increased by 50.97 per cent when compared to the Easter Term of 2020, while the number of amended petitions increased by 16.67 per cent.

For every 100 decrees nisi (provisional decree of divorce) filed there were 188 decrees absolute (final decree) filed in the Easter Term of 2021 (April-July), a sizeable improvement of 88 percentage points when compared to the corresponding term in 2020, and by far the best ratio achieved in recent recorded history, the chief justice's Easter term statistics report on the Supreme Court, 2021 shows.

The report explains that the number of requisitions filed at each of the three stages of the case flow continuum – petition requisition, requisition for decree nisi and requisition for decree absolute – increased when compared to the corresponding term in 2020; in particular, the number of petitions filed increased by 41.68 per cent, the number of decrees absolute filed increased by 46.32 per cent and the number of decrees nisi filed increased by 0.62 per cent.

And with the court's Matrimonial Division continuing to make significant progress in clearing its case backlog, it means that divorce cases filed in Supreme Court (either registry location), which meet the required standards of accuracy and completeness, will quite probably be able to obtain a disposal within six to eight months.

It's no secret that Jamaican couples are walking away from their marriages – it's a global trend that has been highlighted in studies since the pandemic started, where lockdowns and couples being forced into close confines have exacerbated underlying problems – like women realising that they have to take on the bulk of the childcare burden – and so many couples walk away, because of the marital strife caused.

“A lot of breakups have been attributed to COVID, and you have to understand why, because there are many never before experienced dynamics at play that people would have been dealing with for the first time in the pandemic,” counsellor David Anderson said.

“So, for example, you find yourself laid off or on a pay cut, and your spouse is in the same boat, and the kids are home and the bills are due and you don't see a way out – these are troubles not many people are prepared to handle, even though they made the 'for better or worse' vow.”

Surprisingly also, is that women seem to be leading the charge as petitioners for divorce, with the men sometimes blindsided when they get served.

“Business has increased on that front, and the cost to file doesn't deter the women,” a family law attorney who practises in St Catherine told All Woman.

“What you find is that because they feel empowered, they may feel like the husband is holding them back, or there was infidelity and this is their revenge, or they don't want to get much older and be stuck in a non-progressive relationship – in the same way that women are taking charge in other aspects of society, they are also filing for divorce as it's no longer seen as taboo.”

The attorney, who didn't want to be named for privacy reasons, said that he had a client recently who said that she just got an epiphany that she was not meant to be living that kind of life where she felt like a slave in the marriage.

“Women are not putting up with inequality anymore – they're standing in their own,” the attorney said.

“Based on what I've garnered from consultations with clients, a lot of times men are very nonchalant and they don't feel the need to initiate the divorce proceedings because they want to have the woman still as the wife, they believe that sometimes there is hope, but women are emotional beings, and because of that, being driven by emotions, they always want to take the lead in starting afresh with their relationship and making that big step,” attorney Michelle Thomas explained.

It's a theory explained in the study Why women choose divorce: An evolutionary perspective, published on ScienceDirect, which sought answers to why, in Western dual-educated, male-female marriages, and even though women who divorce face greater burdens because of decreased income and primary or sole responsibility for caring for children than men who divorce, women initiate divorce more and fare better psychologically after a divorce than men.

“Women's unprecedented career ascendance also affords women even more freedom to leave,” the authors said… “More traditional marriages were more likely to break up when women were elected to office or promoted to CEO. The authors speculate that it is a violation of the expectations of the partners that drove divorces, when the marriage shifted toward a non-traditional female role, one or both parties were dissatisfied.”

Explained human performance coach Tenille Batson: “There are certain key requirements the female sex has in relationships – a connection and closeness with her partner, communication, trust and faithfulness. When any one of these are breached, she begins putting brick after brick up on that wall, until she has finished building and then she will make her exit.

“If there's no intervention to stem this tide of building, then surely, the end of the marriage will be in sight.”

That's what led Toni-Ann to make the $70,000 deposit required to initiate proceedings just before Christmas, as “we just don't have that connection anymore”.

“And I can see my youth passing me by, and I know things are not going to get better, so I spoke to the lawyer, gave my affidavit, then went home and showed my husband the receipt,” she said.

She said she was even more convinced that she had taken the right steps to end her seven-year marriage when her husband responded “with his typical disinterest”, and asked her how long before he would be served, as if he couldn't wait to make his exit as well.

“The man will think that everything is fine, while the woman is seeing the marriage crash like the Titanic, and she will see divorce as the only way out,” Batson said. “Worse is when because of pride or whatever the man doesn't give any indication that he's willing to work things out, and instead tries to be macho, or to blame or shame her for taking action. Then she will feel vindicated.“

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